Conyers reiterates demand for RNC documents
Nick Juliano
Published: Thursday August 7, 2008

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Chairman says committee must cooperate with probe of Justice Dept. after judge's subpoena ruling

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers is reiterating his demand that the Republican National Committee hand over e-mails and other documents relating to its probe of the Bush administration's politicization of the Justice Department.

Conyers (D-MI) wrote to RNC lawyer Robert Kelner Thursday explaining that a judge's recent ruling upholding Congress's authority to subpoena two White House aides also complied to the political committee, which maintained separate e-mail address for some administration figures like former adviser Karl Rove.

The Judiciary Committee has spent more than a year trying to get its hands on the RNC documents in its probe that began with an inquiry into the firing of nine US Attorneys and has expanded to consider all aspects of the Justice Department, including the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Critics and whistleblowers say Rove helped orchestrate the Siegleman prosecution; at the time he was sent to jail on what many see as trumped-up charges, Siegelman was the only Democratic governor in the south.

In his letter (.pdf), Conyers noted the White House has not claimed executive privilege to scuttle its inquiry into Siegelman's case, as it has with other Congressional investigations. Therefore, the Michigan Democrat argues, there is no reason for the RNC not to cooperate.

In addition, I would also like to request that you identify and produce any emails transmitted to or from the White House staff through RNC computer servers that mention former Governor of Alabama Don Siegelman. Because there has been no White House claim of privilege regarding Siegelman documents -- to the contrary, the White House has permitted Karl Rove to provide written statements to the Committee's Ranking Member on this very subject -- I would assume that you will be able to produce these documents directly and that no listing or privilege log will be required. To the extent that your client does elect to withhold any of these documents from the Committee, I would appreciate a comparable listing so that the Committee can evaluate any claims of privilege that you believe apply.

US District Judge John Bates ruled last week that the White House's "claim of absolute immunity" to avoid handing over documents and prevent testimony from Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former counsel Harriet Miers "is without any support in case law."

That ruling went on to require the White House to produce subpoenaed documents or offer a detailed list of what it was withholding, outlining specific executive privilege claims in each case.

"[Y]our client has declined to produce or itemize the subpoenaed documents relying on the very Executive Privilege claim that was considered by Judge Bates, and you have previously indicated that the RNC would adhere to the terms of a court resolution of the dispute between the Committee and the Executive," Conyers wrote to Kelner. "Accordingly, I expect you will provide any non-privileged documents that your client possesses and an appropriate list and description of any subpoenaed documents that you continue to withhold."